BY ZEYNEP GURCANLI
As the war in Ukraine continues, there has been a mobilization in Syria.
It is meaningful that the source of this mobilization is the United States, not Russia.
U.S. President Biden, who has appeared completely unconcerned about Syria since he took office, has shown particular interest in the region since the Ukraine war began. This shows that Washington is attempting to surround Russia via Syria.
Turkey lies at the heart of the U.S.’ Syria mobilization. The visit of U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman to Ankara was much discussed in the media. Sherman, a senior bureaucrat in the U.S., one of the largest economies in the world, traveled via scheduled flights, in contrast to the overseas visit made by Turkey’s President of Religious Affairs via private jet during an economic crisis.
A SILENT VISIT FROM THE U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
However, during Sherman’s visit, another critical visit was paid to Ankara on the down-low. While Sherman was talking with Turkish officials on the Ukrainian crisis, the main agenda of Ethan Goldrich, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, was Syria.
Goldrich had attended another meeting on Syria in Washington on March 3, before coming to Turkey. The diplomats from the Arab Union, Egypt, EU, France, Germany, Iraq, Jordan, Norway, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UK, and Turkey also attended the meeting in Washington. The most remarkable detail in the common statement released after the Washington meeting was that the war crimes committed in Syria should not be left unpunished.
The mention of the use of chemical weapons among these war crimes is a detail in the declaration that warrants special attention. To see that the U.S. is renewing the claims on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, on which it has been quiet for a while, gives the clue at what point the U.S will give Russia and its ally, the Assad administration, a hard time in conjunction with Ukrainian war.
There is more…
The International Women’s Day message published by U.S. diplomat Samantha Power, head of the USAID, the U.S. official aid organization, was also related to Syria. Power recognized women volunteers who work for the White Helmets organization in her Twitter message on IWD, saying “The U.S.’s support will always be behind you.”
Where do we remember the White Helmets from? From the address of the claims on the use of chemical weapons in Syria. It is worth noting that the White Helmets, which appears to be a charity organization on paper, was founded by ex-intelligence officers of the U.S. and UK.
GOLDRICH’S VISIT TO PYD-YPG
Goldrich then went from Ankara to Istanbul, where he met with the representatives of the Syrian opposition. His next stop was Syria.
In Northern Iraq, Rudaw, the voice of the Barzani administration, announced that Goldrich would go to Rojava to meet the PYD-YPG staff, which Ankara insists are the extension of the PKK terrorist organization.
The content of the interview was leaked in the U.S press and communicated by Rudaw: Goldrich would discuss the details of how the USD 125m in aid the U.S. administration had allocated to PYD-YPG from its budget would be used.
This is also not all…
U.S. TO EXEMPT EAST OF EUPHRATES FROM SANCTIONS
The news also drew attention to another dimension of Goldrich’s visit to Syria.
It is said that the U.S. administration will excuse the PYD-YPG from the sanctions of the Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, also known as the Caesar Act, which is still applicable to all of Syria.
The Biden administration is allegedly planning to make the official statement on the exemption of the PYD-YPG from the sanctions this week. This exemption is not only for the PYD-YPG; other Syrian opposition groups will benefit, reports on the issue claim.
But the U.S. is making an exception even within these exemptions. Not all elements that are opposed to the Assad regime in Syria are included in this exemption to the sanctions.
For example, the U.S. sanctions for Idlib, which is under the control of Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S., will continue. This may make sense due to the fact that the HTS is a terrorist organization.
However, the U.S administration seems to treat Afrin, which is controlled by Turkish Armed Forces and affiliated Syrian forces, in the same way as Idlib, according to the American press. The important thing about Afrin is that the PYD-YPG put in a claim for this region. Obviously, the U.S. administration has accepted the insistence of the PYD-YPG not to exempt Afrin, which is not in their control, although it is in the hands of opponents of Assad.
If this news is correct, keeping Afrin out of sanction exceptions means that the U.S administration is paying no attention to Turkey. I wonder if the American Undersecretary came to Ankara before the announcement to mitigate the reaction.
TURKEY SHOULD BE VERY CAREFUL
The sudden U.S. mobilization in Syria in coordination with the Ukrainian war does not bode well.
Add to this the increasing reports from Western media that jihadists from Syria are going to fight in Ukraine. The Putin administration has been silent on these allegations for now. But what will happen if it breaks this silence?
Turkey has managed to remain impartial in the Ukraine war. However, can it manage the same in Syrian territory, where it has soldiers?
Very critical days are at our doorstep…